Cana­dian min­i­mum wage work­ers say they’re sur­viv­ing rather than liv­ing

Cape Breton Post - - Canada - BY VICKY FRAGASSO-MAR­QUIS

Erendira Achati Ker­iti needed win­ter clothes, but she knew she couldn’t af­ford to buy them new.

She man­aged to save enough money to buy sec­ond-hand gar­ments, only to find they’d al­ready been snapped up by the time she made it back to the thrift store.

Ker­iti, a 39-year-old Toronto res­i­dent, said she strug­gles fi­nan­cially de­spite the fact she is em­ployed.

She’s one of a num­ber of low-wage work­ers who have trou­ble mak­ing ends meet and who be­lieve Cana­dian provinces need to raise the min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour.

While Al­berta has pledged to raise the min­i­mum wage to $15 by Oc­to­ber 2018, oth­ers have de­clined to fol­low.

Que­bec will raise its min­i­mum wage to $11.25 from $10.75 on Mon­day — a hike Ker­iti and sev­eral other work­ers in­ter­viewed by The Cana­dian Press say is in­suf­fi­cient.

Ker­iti doesn’t have a steady job, sur­viv­ing in­stead on short-term paint­ing and con­struc­tion jobs.

She says she some­times ar­rives at a job site only to be told there isn’t any work for her, mean­ing she and her part­ner live in con­stant in­se­cu­rity.

“At the mo­ment I have noth­ing per­ma­nent in my life be­cause I don’t know how much money I will make in the next month and how much I will be paid,’’ she said in a phone in­ter­view.

Mathieu Proulx, who earns $13.50 an hour as a main­te­nance worker in Mon­treal’s Old Port, says he some­times feels like he’s sur­viv­ing rather than liv­ing.

“You’re al­ways wait­ing for the next cheque,’’ said Proulx, 43. ”As soon as there’s an un­fore­seen (ex­pense), ev­ery­thing be­comes un­bal­anced.’’

In his small apart­ment in the Hochelaga-Maison­neuve dis­trict, a bass gui­tar sits unused in the cor­ner. Proulx ex­plains it’s bro­ken and that he can’t af­ford to fix it.

The sit­u­a­tion can be­come even more se­ri­ous when health prob­lems strike.

Go­laeh Gaf­fari, a 40-year-old from Co­quit­lam, B.C., says she worked at a Tim Hor­tons for five years be­fore get­ting hurt.

Now un­able to work, she doubts she and her hus­band will be able to stay in the one-bed­room apart­ment they’re rent­ing for $900 a month.

Gaf­fari says prices have gone up sig­nif­i­cantly since she em­i­grated from Iran in 2008, while wages have stag­nated.

“Ev­ery­thing is go­ing right up: trans­porta­tion, rent, gro­ceries,’’ she said. “Ev­ery­thing is be­ing raised and no­body com­plains about it. But min­i­mum wage, no.’’

Even work­ers who don’t have to pay B.C.’s sky-high rental prices say they have trou­ble mak­ing ends meet.

Jonethan Brigley, who works at Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity in Nova Sco­tia, says about half his monthly bud­get is taken up by the $591 he pays in rent.

The 29-year-old be­lieves rais­ing the min­i­mum wage would be “a start’’ but should be fol­lowed by other mea­sures such as sta­bi­liz­ing rental prices.

While the so-called “Fight for $15’’ has its de­fend­ers, ex­perts re­main di­vided over whether the mea­sure would have a pos­i­tive im­pact on work­ers.

One econ­o­mist, Pierre Fortin, be­lieves min­i­mum wage needs to be eval­u­ated within the greater con­text of salaries in the re­gion — mean­ing provinces shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily fol­low the $15 min­i­mum wage move­ment be­gun in the United States.

He points out that the min­i­mum wage in Que­bec in 2016 was about 46 per cent of the over­all hourly av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.